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June 22nd

Alzheimer's-Disease-Associated Protein Controls Movement in Mice

Researchers in Berlin and Munich, Germany and Oxford, United Kingdom, have revealed that a protein well known for its role in Alzheimer's disease controls spindle development in muscle and leads to impaired movement in mice when the protein is absent or treated with inhibitors. The results, which were published online on June 21, 2013 in an open-access article in The EMBO Journal, suggest that drugs under development to target the beta-secretase-1 protein, which may be potential treatments for Alzheimer's disease, might produce unwanted side effects related to defective movement. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia found in older adults. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 18 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's disease. The number of people affected by the disease may increase to 34 million by 2025. Scientists know that the protein beta-secretase-1 or Bace1, a protease enzyme that breaks down proteins into smaller molecules, is involved in Alzheimer's disease. Bace1 cleaves the amyloid precursor protein and generates the damaging Abeta peptides that accumulate as plaques in the brain leading to disease. Now scientists have revealed in more detail how Bace1 works. "Our results show that mice that lack Bace1 proteins or are treated with inhibitors of the enzyme have difficulties in coordination and walking and also show reduced muscle strength," remarked Dr. Carmen Birchmeier, one of the authors of the paper, Professor at the Max-Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany, and an EMBO Member. "In addition, we were able to show that the combined activities of Bace1 and another protein, neuregulin-1 or Nrg1, are needed to sustain the muscle spindles in mice and to maintain motor coordination." Muscle spindles are sensory organs that are found throughout the muscles of vertebrates.